Columbus police say shooting spree was racially motivated
COLUMBUS, GA. (AP) — A 39-year-old man accused of shooting and wounding five people in Alabama and Georgia told police his assaults were racially motivated, and he was targeting white men, a detective testified Monday.
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that a police detective testified in a preliminary hearing that Justin Tyran Roberts, who is Black, told police that white men had picked on him and wronged him for all his life.
“Basically, he explained throughout his life, specifically white males had taken from him, and also what he described as military-looking white males had taken from him,” Detective Brandon Lockhart testified, according to the newspaper.
Police have accused Roberts of shooting five people in three separate assaults in Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama. All victims are expected to recover, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said Sunday. The chief added that police found no evidence that Roberts knew any of his victims.
Roberts appeared in court Monday in Columbus for a preliminary hearing in one of those incidents where a man was shot in the back as he was getting into his vehicle.
Lockhart testified that Roberts said, “I had to have him,” about one of the shooting victims.
Roberts also claimed that such men were “shooting at him in a wooded area with a slingshot,” and the wounds had infected his skin, Lockhart testified. But he said police saw no injuries to substantiate that.
Public defender Robin King requested a mental health evaluation for Roberts, saying the man was suffering from delusions.
“The officer’s testimony has demonstrated that Mr. Roberts is having delusions and a disconnect from reality,” King told the judge.
Judge Julius Hunter found probable cause to send Roberts’ case to Muscogee Superior Court.
Police said one person was hurt in a shooting Friday night at a hotel in Phenix City. Less than two hours later Friday, three people were shot in Columbus. A fifth person was shot Saturday afternoon.
Phenix City and Columbus sit on opposite sides on the Alabama-Georgia border.
The Columbus police chief sought to reassure people that the downtown business district, known as Uptown, is safe.
“Uptown is safe. These recent shooting incidents that occurred in the last 24 hours have been isolated incidents,” Blackmon said. “We have not received any information that would indicate there was anyone else involved in these shooting incidents other than the person we have in custody.”